Myanmar Update: July 11, 2019

Myanmar Update | July 11, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Jack Myint, and Dim Mang
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

July 24: Travel and Tourism Committee Quarterly Call

July 26: ASEAN Presidents' Luncheon Series (Singapore)

August 23: 3rd 2019 ASEAN-US Digital Policy Consultative Forum (Bangkok)

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Draft Law from Ministry of Commerce Would Create Trade Development Authority

The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has drafted a law to establish a trade development commission that would be made up entirely of ministers. According to the draft law, the MoC and the trade development body would have the authority to issue lists of restricted items and non-tariff regulations. Both the World Bank and Germany’s development agency, GIZ, supported the drafting of the law, which Myanmar’s parliament is expected to pass before the end of the year.

According to the Myanmar Times, which reportedly has seen the text of the draft law, its purpose is to “promote fair competition and support locally-produced products, acquisition of technology and innovation which will lead to participation in the global business sector.” The law will allow businesses to import, export, and re-export goods after obtaining the requisite trade registration certificates and licenses. The MoC will be responsible for issuing these licenses. A trade development commission will be formed to implement law. One of the vice presidents would serve as chair of the commission, while the Minister of Planning and Finance, which is currently U Soe Win, would serve as deputy chair. Other ministers from the government would round out the trade development commission, which would also be empowered to carry out trade negotiations on goods and services, including intellectual property rights. The draft law also creates a one-stop service board to manage trade-related licensing and approval procedures. In addition, the draft law is intended to regulate e-commerce, according to the Myanmar Times.

Draft law on trade development comes not long after other efforts by the Government to improve the business environment, including the recent establishment of the Myanmar Competition Commission, which is tasked with enforcing the country’s 2015 Competition Law. However, while Myanmar could certainly benefit from the creation of a trade development authority, how the law is implemented, especially with regard to the nascent e-commerce sector, will be crucial.

Myanmar Raises Electricity Rates to Reduce Losses from Subsidies, Increase FDI

Myanmar’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) has raised the country’s long-subsidized electricity tariffs in an effort to make the electricity price more financially sustainable and boost foreign direct investment (FDI) into Myanmar. On June 25, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy announced that, effective July 1, electricity rates for both residential and business users would increase for the first time in five years. For households and religious buildings the electricity rate will be K35 (US$0.023) per unit, the same as the previous rate. However, the previous rate only applies to the first 30 units. Beyond that consumers will pay according to a price scale that increases every 25-50 units – K50 (US$0.033) for 31-50 units, K70 (US$0.046) for 51-75, K90 (US$0.060) for 76-100, K110 (US$0.073) for 101-150, K120 (US$0.079) for 151-200, and K125 (US$0.083) for over 201. The electricity price for non-residential consumers, such as businesses, embassies, factories, and government buildings, is based on different scale – K125 (US$0.083) per unit up to 500 units, increasing by K10 (US$0.0066) for 50,001-100,000 units. For anything over 100,000 units, non-residential consumers will have to pay K180 (US$0.12) per unit.

Though necessary from a financial sustainability perspective, the electricity rate hike comes at a potentially precarious time for the Government, with general elections slated for 2020. Those with access had grown accustomed to cheap, government-subsidized electricity, so the increased electricity rates are likely to cause a degree of consternation among them. In areas not covered by the national grid, which account for approximately 55 percent of the country, consumers must resort to purchasing electricity from private producers, often at rates that exceed even the newly raised rates. Residents in these areas, such as the gas-producing region of Tanintharyi, would like to see the Government also review the rates charged by private producers, with an eye towards bringing them more in line with the new electricity rates. Eventually, electricity rates across the country are expected to be normalized, as the country reaches its target of 100 percent electrification, which it aims to do by 2030.

The electricity rate hike aims to reduce the losses incurred by the Government on its electricity subsidy scheme while boosting FDI. According to the Ministry of Planning and Finance, electricity subsidies cost the Government K630 billion (US$420 million) over the course of the 2018-19 fiscal year. This was almost a 25 percent increase in the cost incurred by the Government over the previous year. Based off of MOEE estimates, the Government is projected to lose another K500 billion (US$330 million) over the 2019-20 fiscal year. While the price of electricity will increase in the short-term, the Government hopes that it will help spur the addition of new on- and off-grid capacity in the long-term. For more information on the projected increase in demand for electricity in Myanmar, please refer to the Council’s last Myanmar Update (here).

Government-ordered Blackout of Internet in Rakhine, Chin States Raises Concerns over Use of 2013 Telecommunications Law

On June 20, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) ordered telecom companies to shut off mobile internet in parts of northern Rakhine and Chin State. A statement issued by Minister of Transport and Communications U Thant Zin Maung claimed that the reason for cutting internet access in these areas, which have seen fierce fighting between Myanmar’s military – the Tatmadaw – and the Arakan Army (AA), a Rakhine insurgent group, was to prevent people from using the internet to coordinate illegal activities. Security forces in the areas covered by the blackout had claimed that local residents were using mobile internet services to spread information on troop movements. The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, warned soon thereafter that the internet blackout could be preventing potential human rights abuses from coming to light. In addition, 21 organizations focused on advocating for digital rights, the freedom of expression and responsible business practices issued a joint statement saying that the blackout did not follow the 2018 UN Human Rights Council’s resolution identifying “uninterrupted internet access as a fundamental enabler for the enjoyment of human rights.”

The Government has claimed that the internet blackout is allowed under the 2013 Telecommunications Law, which as prompted renewed calls from civil society groups for the law’s review. Under the Telecommunications Law, the Government can order telecom companies to suspend service or intercept communications in the case of an emergency. The most recent use of the law in Rakhine and Chin States has raised concerns that the Tatmadaw may seek to expand its use of the Telecommunications Law. Currently, three telecom companies have been affected by the order to shutdown mobile internet services – Telenor Myanmar, Ooredoo, and Mytel, which is affiliated with the Tatmadaw. The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar has said that the application of the Telecommunications Law in this instance underscores the need for constitutional reform in Myanmar, where the civilian government can exercise very little, if any, control over the military, which also controls the Ministries of Defense, Border Affairs, and Home Affairs in addition to 25 percent of the seats in parliament.

Extension of the ceasefire, peace talks, and the 2020 elections

On June 30, hours before a unliteral ceasefire between the military and insurgent groups was set to expire, the Tatmadaw extended the agreement to August 31. The Commander-in-Chief’s Office stated that the reason for the two-month extension is that government and ethnic armed groups were still in the process of negotiations, and the Tatmadaw hopes to provide more time for these talks.

Though ten armed ethnic armies have signed the National Ceasefire Agreement, some are expressing doubt that the peace talks will result in tangible outcomes. The 21st Century Panglong Conference, intended to discuss the peace process as well as the conditions of sectored political dialogues, were originally slated to occur every six months, with the first session held in 2016. Instead, there have only been three, the second one in 2017 and the third in 2018. The slow pace of progress has resulted in the Karen National Union (KNU) announcing a temporary halt in its participation in the peace progress.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) announced in June that President Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will run in the 2020 elections, but it’s unclear if they will receive a sweeping majority in 2020 like they did in previous elections. Many ethnic Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, and Mon parties are making alliances in the hopes that they can have a strong showing in the 2020 elections. After suffering major electoral losses in the 2015 general election, and increase disappointment with the NLD-led government, many of these parties are strategizing a common platform to compete with Suu Kyi’s party in 2020.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

US-ABC Prepares Compilation of Member Companies' CSR Activities in Myanmar for Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Due to escalating discussions in the U.S. Congress regarding potential sanctions towards Myanmar, the Council prepared a compilation of members companies' Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in the country to share with Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffers. The goal was to highlight the growing presence of U.S. businesses in Myanmar, and show how they have helped support capacity building efforts in the country. For more information on the compilation of CSR activities, please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Arrest warrant for U Wirathu to be issued in Mandalay
Ignoring Ethnic Parties will Hurt NLD in 2020
UK Commissioner in Bangladesh Stresses 3-Point Rohingya Return Plan
Tatmadaw extends ceasefire a second time, to August 31
ICC prosecutor seeks Bangladesh and Myanmar investigation
New party will compete in elections across the nation
Government internet ban leaves parts of Myanmar ‘in a blackout’, UN expert calls for immediate lifting
Parties unite to move Myanmar sanctions bill
State Counsellor takes aim at 2020 to complete agenda

Customs
Chinese Thirst For Crude Oil Growing; Nearly Equals The Total Production Of Saudi Arabia | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide
Myanmar major contributor of smuggled gold to India
Meghalaya: Drugs seized
Myanmar to ease decades-old alcohol import ban

Defense & Security
Myanmar denies staging joint Ops

Economics
More development on the books for Mandalay
Bond market to deepen with higher fiscal deficit, growth levels expected
Draft law to create trade authority, empower commerce ministry
‘US keen to invest, strengthen ties with Myanmar, but faster reform needed’
To Dodge Trade War, Chinese Exporters Shift Production to Low-Cost Nations
Budget deficit expected to hit K7 trillion in next fiscal year

Energy
Taking politics out of power
LNG projects: delayed, not dead
Yangon Region losing electricity units worth over K1.6bn yearly
How solar micro-grids are powering Myanmar’s villages
Power purchase tenders called for summer 2020
First commercial solar power plant launched in Myanmar
Myanmar hikes electricity rates to fund grid investments
Electricity Minister U Win Khine Reduces Workload Due to Illness
To Electrify Myanmar, Build The Grid From The Outside In
World Bank Puts Myanmar’s Power Investment Needs at $2B a Year
Electricity demand tops projections, dams unable to keep up: ministry

Financial Services
Myanmar's new insurers face a tough sell
Myanmar's digital money transfers set to triple in 2019
UK invests US$1.7m in Myanmar mobile banking services
Low penetration rate for SME loans, Ministry of Industry data reveals
Myanmar's economy to grow at 6.5 pct in current fiscal: World Bank - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Myanmar Strategic launches 12-month share issuance programme

Food & Agriculture
Farmers complain against sale of false Japanese brand harvesters
Yangon Chief Minister Promises to Find International Markets for Agricultural Products
Kayah Farmers Continue Military Protest, Now in Silence
New Livestock Breeding Zones Will Improve Local Dairy Industry Production
In Rebuff to UN, KIO Says Opium Cultivation Growing Under Army ‘Protection’
Japanese Firm to Help Build Industrial Zone for Agricultural Goods in Yangon

Health & Life Sciences
Red Cross aims to train five million to build resilient communities
Clinic closure marks milestone for HIV treatment in Myanmar
Research data in joint Myanmar government-USAID project helps health planning
Myanmar youth takes on climate change
Villagers get diseases from waste-contaminated water
60 Yangon schools picked for health program

ICT
Mandalay project with telco under review, says chief minister
Tender to be called to provide internet service in Mandalay’s gems market
Myanmar to Change Text Encoding Standards This October
MPT Brings Its Digital Education Services to Myanmar People
US calls for end to Myanmar internet shutdown
Myanmar's internet blackout violates rights but could be the first of many
Govt Faces Backlash for N. Rakhine Internet Blackout
AA accuses Tatmadaw of trying to hide information
Total Number of Defamation Cases Under Telecommunications Law Hits 200

Infrastructure
Five-year judicial strategic plan being implemented for speedy judicial reform
Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw courts implement case management plan
House to discuss charter change, budget
The President Intervenes to Save Yangon from Its Govt
Some State Parliaments Approve Creation of Immigration Ministries
Yangon to reallocate K16 billion for public development
Yangon builds eight wharfs within three-year time
Centre promises to operate buses between Mizoram & Myanmar

Manufacturing
Vice president urges co-ops to get more involved in manufacturing
The impact of counterfeit drugs in south and south-east Asia
Myanmar to encourage automobile assembly industry
MPIE: A state enterprise success story

Travel & Tourism
Groups to study how tourism sector handles Chinese visitors
Bangkok Airways expresses interest in opening routes to Bagan
Can Myanmar attract more tourists?
Bagan added to UNESCO World Heritage List
Myanmar’s tourism industry targets U.S.
Chinese airlines moving to Myanmar
Tourism Ministry remains positive as visa restrictions eased
Concerns may emerge when Bagan hotels, businesses are forced to move
Region’s tourism ministers vow to boost cooperation
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Arrest warrant for U Wirathu to be issued in Mandalay The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
The Western District Court issued the arrest warrant giving the monk one month to surrender on Tuesday, under section 87 of the Penal Code, he said. “The monk absconded after the court issued the first warrant. Now the judge will order him to appear in court within one month,” he said. The Mandalay Region Police have been instructed to publicly post the warrant issued by the court, he said. U Wirathu is being tried in absentia for sedition, and nine witnesses have been examined so far.

Ignoring Ethnic Parties will Hurt NLD in 2020 The Irrawaddy 10th Jul 2019
The failure of Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party to build healthy relationships with the country’s ethnic populations and their political parties could hurt the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led party in the general election next year, especially in ethnic states. Political observers have noticed the NLD’s failure to honor the wishes of indigenous people in ethnic states. Offenses include naming a bridge in Mon State after General Aung San, the country’s late independence leader and father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, despite thousands of locals marching against it and petitioning both state and Union parliaments to reverse their decisions.

UK Commissioner in Bangladesh Stresses 3-Point Rohingya Return Plan The Irrawaddy 9th Jul 2019
British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson reaffirmed a three-point plan for a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis at a press conference on Monday, but said he looked forward to hearing more about the discussions Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held with her Chinese counterparts on the matter recently. Dickson said the long term answer to the crisis must be a “safe, dignified and voluntary” return of the Rohingya to their homeland in Myanmar.

Tatmadaw extends ceasefire a second time, to August 31 The Myanmar Times 2nd Jul 2019
The Tamadaw, Myanmar’s military, has again extended its unilateral ceasefire to August 31 just hours before it was due to expire on Sunday, according to an announcement from the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services. The Commander-in-Chief’s Office announced the reason for the two-month extension is that government and ethnic armed groups had participated in negotiations during the ceasefire, and as such, the Tatmadaw seeks to provide more time for talks between armed groups and the government. The military first declared a four-month unilateral ceasefire in five military operation areas from December 21, 2018, to April 30, 2019. It then extended the ceasefire from May 1 to June 30.

ICC prosecutor seeks Bangladesh and Myanmar investigation Reuters 27th Jun 2019
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday moved closer to opening a full investigation into alleged crimes against the Rohingya people who were driven from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement she would ask judges for permission to investigate crimes that had “at least one element” in Bangladesh, which is a member of the ICC. She added that her investigation would cover crimes that also took place “within the context of two waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of” Myanmar.

New party will compete in elections across the nation The Myanmar Times 27th Jun 2019
The party, which was set up about two months ago and now has about 100,000 members, will compete in some states at the request of ethnic people, according to Thura U Shwe Mann. “We have strong belief we can win. It will be up to the people to choose the right person from the right party,” he said. Thura U Shwe Mann awarded party membership certificates and answered questions at a meeting with township elders, social organisations, and people who were interested in joining the party in Mandalay Region on Thursday. His party now has offices in all states and regions, except Magwe Region, Thura U Shwe Mann said.

Government internet ban leaves parts of Myanmar ‘in a blackout’, UN expert calls for immediate lifting UN News 24th Jun 2019
The Government shutdown mobile data networks in nine conflict areas townships of Rakhine and Chin States, risking serious implications for human rights and humanitarian monitoring, warned UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee. “The entire region is in a blackout,” she said. “I fear for all civilians there, cut off and without the necessary means to communicate with people inside and outside the area.” According to recent reports, over the last six months, both parties to the conflict have committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Parties unite to move Myanmar sanctions bill TheHill 20th Jun 2019
Bipartisan lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee joined forces Thursday to advance legislation slapping new sanctions on Myanmar's military regime for its violent purge of ethnic minorities. The proposal, sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), is designed to punish Myanmar's leaders for their long-running campaign of brutality and displacement against the Rohingya, a Muslim group occupying western regions of the state. Supporters are hoping the new restrictions — including trade, travel and financial sanctions against Myanmar's top leaders — will check the violence and ultimately lead to war crimes charges against those behind the attacks.

State Counsellor takes aim at 2020 to complete agenda The Myanmar Times 19th Jun 2019
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has announced that President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will run in the 2020 election. This means that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is determined to carry out the unfinished work of her government. The announcement coincides with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 74th birthday on Wednesday. There are older senior leaders around the world, such as Elizabeth II, who is 93, and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is also 93.

Customs

Chinese Thirst For Crude Oil Growing; Nearly Equals The Total Production Of Saudi Arabia | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide Hellenic Shipping News 8th Jul 2019
On July 2, 2019, Reuters news agency reported that the government agencies in China (PRC) provided additional import quotas of another 56.85 million tons of crude oil by the end of this year to their largest refiners including 33 private and 10 state or provincial refiners. The total amount of permitted import quotas for 2019 in the PRC will amount to 151 million tons, which is equivalent to 3.02 million barrels per day. Over the past four years, Chinese refiners continue to influence domestic oil demand in China, which contributes to maintaining stable world prices, globally.

Myanmar major contributor of smuggled gold to India The Asian Age 5th Jul 2019
If the records of seizure of gold by customs and other related agencies in the Northeast were any indicator, Myanmar, which was earlier known for the trade of illegal arms, is now turning into a major transit point of smuggled gold to India. The customs sleuths seized 3,223 kg gold worth Rs 974 crore in 2017-18 which is the only 5-10 per cent of the total illegal trade that could be detected and seized. According to a conservative estimate of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the total market of smuggled gold in India is nothing less than Rs 9,000 crore.

Meghalaya: Drugs seized The Statesman 1st Jul 2019
Even as the world observed International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking last week, the rise in cases of drug abuse and trafficking has become a major cause of concern for Meghalaya, says a report in the Guwahati-based Assam Tribune. Several narcotics-related cases have been registered during the last one year. Apart from the state police, Customs officials have made huge seizures. From 2018 till date, the Shillong-based Commissionerate of Customs (Preventive), NE Region, has seized 1.37 kg of heroin. Apart from that 12.6 kg opium, 1.6 kg cocaine, 0.47 gm morphine, 2306.08 kg ganja and 3, 24,024 methamphetamine tablets and 303 bottles of phensedyl were seized.

Myanmar to ease decades-old alcohol import ban The Myanmar Times 19th Jun 2019
Assistant secretary U Khin Maung Lwin told The Myanmar Times that the ministry is currently drafting a bill allowing the import of foreign spirits. After the bill is finalised based on inputs from different departments, it will be sent to the Attorney General’s Office for input. The liberalisation is expected to pave the way for more direct foreign investment in the beverage industry and hit the thriving black market. The restriction on alcohol imports has resulted in massive quantities of foreign alcohol being smuggled into Myanmar, fuelling illicit trade. Customs department data suggests that 1.3 million litres of distilled spirits valued at almost US$8 million was legally imported in 2017-18.

Defense & Security

Myanmar denies staging joint Ops NagalandPost 20th Jun 2019
The Myanmar military or Tatmadaw has denied reports by Indian news agencies that the armed forces of the two countries have been conducting joint military operations against rebel groups fighting the Indian government from bases along the border.

Economics

More development on the books for Mandalay The Myanmar Times 2nd Jul 2019
More funding will be used for Mandalay Region development work in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, said Mandalay Hluttaw (Assembly) MP and regional Project Budget and Finance Committee member U Wine Chit Aung. As the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) has allocated additional funding to regional and state assemblies for fiscal year 2019-2020, more development work can and will be carried out, said U Wine Chit Aung. “We used more than K17 billion from the 2018 mini-budget and more than K2.7 billion from the 2018-2019 budget so far for development projects. We anticipate utilising more than K27 billion in the 2019-2020 fiscal year for regional development work. The instructions of the Union Financial Commission are that the money be used on projects that bring immediate benefits to the people,” he said.

Bond market to deepen with higher fiscal deficit, growth levels expected The Myanmar Times 1st Jul 2019
Myanmar’s economy has picked up in the 2018-19 fiscal year, supported by an improvement in business sentiment amid renewed reform momentum, strong growth in garment manufacturing, expansion of tourism-related services and stronger fiscal spending, according to the preliminary assessment by the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) after its Annual Consultation Visit to the country from June 18 to 27. Going forward, “we expect the economy to rebound to 6.8 percent in 2018-19 and to 7.1pc in the following year, supported by the resumption of reforms and higher fiscal spending,” said AMRO Lead Economist Dr Jae Young Lee.

Draft law to create trade authority, empower commerce ministry The Myanmar Times 1st Jul 2019
The legislation is expected to be approved by parliament within this year and the drafting was supported by the World Bank and German’s development agency GIZ. The text of the draft legislation, seen by The Myanmar Times, seeks to “promote fair competition and support locally-produced products, acquisition of technology and innovation which will lead to participation in the global business sector.” Under the draft trade law, businesses can import, export and re-export goods by obtaining trade registration certificates and licences issued by the commerce ministry, according to law firm DFDL.

‘US keen to invest, strengthen ties with Myanmar, but faster reform needed’ The Myanmar Times 27th Jun 2019
US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel, who spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce Myanmar’s “Improving Ease of Doing Business Forum” yesterday, acknowledged that while the government has been implementing reforms and building infrastructure, more still needs to be done in order for investors to be more confident in channeling their funds into the country.  He was critical of the “Look East Policy” pushed by the Myanmar Investment Commission since late last year, pointing out that investment and trade opportunities existed globally, including from the US. 

To Dodge Trade War, Chinese Exporters Shift Production to Low-Cost Nations The New York Times 26th Jun 2019
Pressured by a labor crunch and rising wages in China, Shu Ke'an, whose company supplies bulletproof vests, rifle bags and other tactical gear to the United States, first considered shifting some production to Southeast Asia a few years ago, but nothing came of it. When trade tensions flared into a tariff war last year, however, it was the final straw. A day after U.S. President Donald imposed additional tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods in September, Shu, 49, decided to start making vests for his U.S. clients in Myanmar instead. Since then, the Trump administration has further hiked tariffs on Chinese imports, raising the U.S. taxes on Shu's Guangzhou-made bulletproof vests to 42.6%.

Budget deficit expected to hit K7 trillion in next fiscal year The Myanmar Times 19th Jun 2019
He made the comment at a National Planning Commission meeting and Finance Commission meeting for fiscal 2019-20 in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday. The government plans to implement projects that would have immediate public benefits next year, he told the National Planning Commission meeting. “As State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has stated, the country will not develop unless there is peace and stability, so all projects need to aim for these goals and meet the public’s needs,” U Win Myint said.

Energy

Taking politics out of power Frontier Myanmar 6th Jul 2019
The government's decision to raise electricity prices is commendable, but creating an independent regulator would take politics out of the country's power supply. This is not a government known for making brave political decisions. But on June 25, it announced a much-needed increase in electricity prices, for both households and businesses. The new pricing came into effect on July 1. In reality, the government didn’t have much choice. Electricity subsidies are already close to US$500 million a year and threatening to balloon out of control. Still, to announce an increase of this size relatively close to an election was commendable. The price hike will hurt many middle-income households.

LNG projects: delayed, not dead Frontier Myanmar 28th Jun 2019
In January 2018, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy took a big punt on imported liquefied natural gas. At a ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw on January 30, it signed “notices to proceed” with the sponsors of three LNG-to-power projects totalling almost 3,000 megawatts. With Myanmar’s hydropower projects delayed and output from domestic gas fields declining, minister U Win Khaing has said these huge investments are necessary to meet Myanmar’s electricity needs over the next decade and beyond.

Yangon Region losing electricity units worth over K1.6bn yearly Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 8th Jul 2019
Government suffers losses of K1.6 billion per year as each of 45 townships in Yangon Region see loss of electricity units worth about K30 million every month, said MP Yan Aung for Mingalar Taungnyunt Township Constituency No (2). 

How solar micro-grids are powering Myanmar’s villages GovInsider 7th Jul 2019
Villages in Myanmar are taking electricity generation into their own hands, turning to solar micro-grids to power their homes. One of the solar pioneers in the country is Yoma Micro Power. It specialises in solar-powered generation and micro-grid distribution. Each of its 51 micro plants can power a small town and its surrounding areas. By the end of 2019, Yoma Micro Power plans to build 200 more solar power plants, towards a total of 2000 by 2022.

Power purchase tenders called for summer 2020 The Myanmar Times 3rd Jul 2019
The invitation comes after State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last week officiated the opening of the Minbu Solar Plant project, Myanmar’s first commercial solar-powered plant, in Magwe Region. In Minbu, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said an additional 1200MW of power will need to be generated over the short term to fulfill demand in the coming year.  This will be purchased from existing gas-fired plants as well as floating power plants, U Ye Tun Zaw, an engineer for the MOEE, told The Myanmar Times.

First commercial solar power plant launched in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 1st Jul 2019
The Minbu Solar Power Plant project, which will be completed in four phases, will have the capacity to generate 170MW of power and produce 350 million kilowatt hours per annum, which is sufficient to electrify about  210,000 households. The Minbu plant is part of a longer term goal to electrify the entire country by 2030, said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. By 2021, at least 55pc of the country is expected to receive access to power. 

Myanmar hikes electricity rates to fund grid investments Nikkei Asian Review 25th Jun 2019
Myanmar will raise electricity prices for the first time in five years, with rates as much as tripling for households and nearly doubling for businesses. The government's just-announced tariff increases take effect this coming Monday and will bring relief to money-losing utilities that have sold power for far below generating costs. With urbanites buying more household appliances and electrification spreading to rural villages, demand for electric power is growing 11% a year, according to estimates published in a World Bank report this month. But supply, much of it from hydropower, has struggled to keep up as aging infrastructure falls into disrepair.

Electricity Minister U Win Khine Reduces Workload Due to Illness The Irrawaddy 21st Jun 2019
Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khine is on medical leave. The minister is not bedridden, but working from his Yangon home, where he holds meetings with ministry officials. Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Aung Thu is assisting in the management of the Electricity Ministry.

To Electrify Myanmar, Build The Grid From The Outside In Forbes 19th Jun 2019
Myanmar faces an uphill battle to achieve universal electrification. And with the lowest GDP per capita in the region, the need to unleash the transformative power of reliable and sufficient energy for all becomes all the more urgent. In the context of the 21st century, we can’t end poverty without ending energy poverty.

World Bank Puts Myanmar’s Power Investment Needs at $2B a Year The Irrawaddy 19th Jun 2019
To sustain economic growth, Myanmar needs to invest up to US$2 billion (3.06 trillion kyats) annually in its electricity sector, according to a World Bank report released on Tuesday. In the report, “Myanmar Economic Monitor: Building Reform Momentum”, the World Bank said Myanmar’s economic growth is expected to rise to 6.5 percent in fiscal 2018-19, due to strong performances by the industrial and service sectors. Growth reached 6.4 percent during the six-month transitional fiscal period from April to September 2018.

Electricity demand tops projections, dams unable to keep up: ministry The Myanmar Times 19th Jun 2019
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy says the demand for electricity this year is expected to be higher than projected. “Demand, whether because of higher-than-expected usage or lower-than-expected power generation, is likely to exceed supply as a result of the late arrival of the monsoon,” the ministry’s Permanent Secretary U Soe Myint told a press conference last week. The ministry had originally estimated a 15 percent increase in demand for power this year, but to date, demand has already risen 19pc.

Financial Services

Myanmar's new insurers face a tough sell Frontier Myanmar 10th Jul 2019
When the government announced in January a road map for opening the nascent life and general insurance sectors to foreign companies, the move was widely applauded as an important economic reform. The potential for growth is massive; in a country of around 54 million, just 2 million people have any form of insurance cover, according to Ministry of Planning and Finance figures. Just 0.01 percent of people have life insurance and ministry figures from 2017 show that premiums amounted to just US$13 million. While third-party insurance is mandatory for vehicles, only 10 percent of the country’s roughly 600,000 cars had any additional cover in 2016.

Myanmar's digital money transfers set to triple in 2019 Nikkei Asian Review 6th Jul 2019
Digital money transfer services in Myanmar by mobile phone operators and banks have all but replaced traditional remittances in only a few years. CEO Brad Jones of Digital Money Myanmar -- operator of the country's leading remittance provider Wave Money -- says transactions via the service exceeded 2 trillion kyat ($1.3 billion) for the first time in 2018, adding that it will be "probably around $4 billion to $5 billion" by the end of 2019. Wave Money was officially launched in October 2016 as a joint venture between Myanmar's second-largest telecom, Norwegian telecom Telenor, and local conglomerate Yoma Group. Telenor holds a 51% stake to Yoma Group's 49%.

UK invests US$1.7m in Myanmar mobile banking services The Myanmar Times 5th Jul 2019
DaNa Facility and a microfinance institution will invest in a new mobile banking project which will extend digital financial inclusion to Myanmar’s unserved population in rural areas and disadvantaged groups. VisionFund Myanmar (VFM), a UK-based microfinance institution, together with the Department for International Development (DFID)’s DaNa Facility will put down US$1.7 million for a financial services scheme for clients in the remote parts of Myanmar. VFM will receive assistance to upgrade their system and technology and utilise mobile applications so it can further expand its services to include women, migrant workers, and smallholder farmers.

Low penetration rate for SME loans, Ministry of Industry data reveals The Myanmar Times 28th Jun 2019
The Ministry of Industry data showed that of 73,085 SMEs registered with it, only 2,207 businesses or 3pc of the total have received funding from financial institutions. The Minister of Industry U KhingMaung Cho said in a meeting on June 21 that the lack of financial documentation and the unavailability of collateral makes it difficult for SMEs to get loans, even with support from government loan schemes for SMEs. “There’s a need to review how SMEs can get financing,” he said.

Myanmar's economy to grow at 6.5 pct in current fiscal: World Bank - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 20th Jun 2019
Myanmar's economy is expected to grow at 6.5 percent in the fiscal year 2018-19 (October-September), said a report of the World Bank carried on state media Thursday. "Growth continues to be broad-based, supported by the industrial and service sectors. Industrial activities revived, supported by strong performance in the garment sector and construction activities," said the World Bank's Myanmar Economic Monitor Building Reform Momentum Report launched on Tuesday.

Myanmar Strategic launches 12-month share issuance programme Stock Market Wire 1st Jul 2019
Myanmar Strategic Holdings said it had launched a share issuance programme that would allow it to raise capital over the next 12 months. The move would allow the company to issue up to 480k shares to take advantage investment opportunities and provide additional working capital. Myanmar Strategic said it intended that no shares would be issued at less than $20 per share.

Food & Agriculture

Farmers complain against sale of false Japanese brand harvesters Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Jul 2019
Complaint letters have been sent to state leaders and the Competition Commission calling for action against the case in which local farmers were tricked into buying China-made combine harvesters instead of Japan-made ones, said Zaw Ran from the Farmers' Network to The Daily Eleven on July 2.  Copies of the complaint went to the President, the State Counsellor, respective chief ministers and the Competition Commission. Local farmers from five regions came to Yangon on June 28 to discuss the matter with the network. The five regions are Ayeyawady, Yangon, Bago, Mandalay and Sagaing.   

Yangon Chief Minister Promises to Find International Markets for Agricultural Products Myanmar Business Today 8th Jul 2019
U Phyo Min Thein, the Chief Minister of Yangon, has promised local businessmen that he will help find international markets for livestock and agricultural products. At a monthly meeting between local businessmen and the Vice President of Myanmar, the Chief Minister said: “Only the agricultural sector and livestock sectors can boost the country’s GDP. We are currently issuing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) as a first step to make are agricultural and livestock products acceptable on the international market.”

Kayah Farmers Continue Military Protest, Now in Silence The Irrawaddy 4th Jul 2019
Kayah Farmers Continue Military Protest, Now in Silence Farmers in Demoso Township, Kayah State, hold a silent protest against military land seizures in the middle of town on Thursday, July 4 2019. / Kayah Youth Meeting Point / Facebook Farmers in Demoso Township, Kayah State staged protests in two locations within the township Thursday against what they say are illegal seizures of their land by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw). The farmers asked the Tatmadaw to return their land and to release other farmers that have recently been detained. “We do not have any more land to grow food on now that the army has seized all our land. We wanted to show the army how we have been suffering, so we held a protest,” Ka Kar, a leader of one of the protests, told The Irrawaddy Thursday. Dozens joined in silence at the protests, holding handwritten signs demanding their land, a solution to the land use issues that plague the area and the release of previously detained farmers.

New Livestock Breeding Zones Will Improve Local Dairy Industry Production Myanmar Business Today 1st Jul 2019
As part of a plan to improve cow breeding for dairy and meat production, Myanmar is creating 28 livestock breeding zones. This information comes to us from U Hla Kyaw, the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation. He added: “These zones will help develop the livestock sector while simultaneously educating farmers. We are also planning to import around 20,000 types of cattle, including Brahmin, during this fiscal year.” The ministry says that it has provided just over K1 billion and a thousand head of cattle for dairy production between FY 2015-2016 and FY 2017-2018. During this fiscal year, the ministry has provided K30 million to ten townships each for the development of the dairy cattle breeding sector. “Our farmers are no strangers to cattle breeding,” Dr. Than Aung Soe, a lawmaker at Pyithu Hluttaw, said. “Given the fact that we have the market to export cattle, providing assistance to the industry will be very beneficial for farmers.” According to Myanmar’s National Animal census, there are 11.5 million head of cattle in the country, and 970,000 are oxen used in agriculture, or are dairy cows.

In Rebuff to UN, KIO Says Opium Cultivation Growing Under Army ‘Protection’ The Irrawaddy 27th Jun 2019
Opium production has increased in Kachin State, including in areas under government control, according to a survey by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The group claimed its findings throw into doubt the accuracy of a 2018 UN study that suggested overall cultivation was declining, with production increases being limited to those areas under KIO control. In a report issued on June 26, the KIO noted that its survey found a much higher level of cultivation than an earlier survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The survey by the UNODC put total opium cultivation in Kachin State in 2018 at 3,400 hectares.

Japanese Firm to Help Build Industrial Zone for Agricultural Goods in Yangon The Irrawaddy 27th Jun 2019
Representatives of Dagon International Co. and JFE Engineering Corporation sign an MOU on June 25 to develop an industrial zone in Yangon. Japan’s JFE Engineering Corporation and Myanmar’s Dagon International Co. signed a memorandum of understanding on development of the industrial zone on Tuesday. The US$150-million (227.55 billion-kyat) industrial zone will be established on 500 acres of land owned by Dagon International Co. in East Dagon Township, according to U Thurein Aung, the chief executive officer of the Myanmar company. “Though we are an agricultural country, we only export primary products, which are processed by foreign countries and exported back to us as value-added products. So, if we can invite those processing plants into our country, we will be able to make value-added goods from our agricultural produce and supply them to consumers.”

Health & Life Sciences

Red Cross aims to train five million to build resilient communities The Myanmar Times 8th Jul 2019
The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) aims to get five million people from all over the country to participate in building “resilient communities” from this year to 2025, a senior official of the group said. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies defines resilience as the ability of people, communities, organisations or countries exposed to disasters, crises and vulnerabilities to anticipate, prepare for, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses, without compromising their long-term prospects.

Clinic closure marks milestone for HIV treatment in Myanmar Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International 8th Jul 2019
As part of a nationwide strategy to transfer HIV patients to Myanmar’s National AIDS Programme (NAP), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) closed our HIV clinic in Insein, Yangon in late June. The Insein clinic, which opened in 2014, was part of our larger Yangon project, which has been running since 2003. At its height, the project provided treatment to more than 17,000 people, many from outside Yangon. The closure represents a milestone both for MSF and for Myanmar, marking the country’s growing capacity to provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for people living with HIV.

Research data in joint Myanmar government-USAID project helps health planning Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 6th Jul 2019
New analyses from the Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey have been released to help with the scaling up of health services in Myanmar. Professor Dr. Zaw Than Htun, Director General of Medical Research, Ministry of Health and Sports and Teresa McGhie, Mission Director, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened a day-long session during which 19 researchers shared new analyses of public health issues in Myanmar with donors and policymakers, according to a press release 5 July. 

Myanmar youth takes on climate change The Myanmar Times 21st Jun 2019
Every year, June 5 marks World Environment Day. As protecting the environment is a global concern, this international day provides an occasion to question what is being done locally to fight climate change and protect our planet. And as the degradation of the environment will be tougher on future generations, it is no surprise to see the youth raising awareness about the issue both internationally and at home. Greta Thunberg, a 16-years-old Swedish student, made the news this year by starting an international student strike, driving hundreds of thousands to the streets, with a simple question: “Why should I study for a future that soon may be no more when no one is doing anything to save that future?”

Villagers get diseases from waste-contaminated water The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
Adults and children who rely on the river for bathing and household water because they can’t afford clean water are suffering from skin disease, according to some residents of Myo Pyin Gyi village in Amarapura township of Mandalay. “Many people are itching because of the wastewater. Those who have money can dig wells for household use and bathing, and buy drinking water, but poor people and those living along the river have to use the river water, and they are always itching,” said U Win Saung a 10-household leader in Myo Pyin Gyi. The village of more than 300 houses and about 1000 people is a half mile from the sewage pipe. In the past, residents used the river water for bathing and drinking, but the water has been undrinkable for about a decade, he said, and now two-thirds of the houses in the village have wells. The wastewater pipe goes through Nyaung Ni Bin village and discharges into the Dotehtawady above the villages of Myo Pyin Gyi, Myo Thit, Myit Nge, Nyaung Bin Sauk and Sar Toe. When the river level is low, the river gives off foul smells and there are more mosquitoes, some Myo Pyin Gyi villagers said.

60 Yangon schools picked for health program The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
Yangon health authorities will work with 60 schools in the region on a health program to promote knowledge of health standards among students in the current academic year, a senior official of the Yangon Region Public Health Department has announced. “We need to accelerate the dissemination of this type of knowledge in schools. Awareness of health knowledge is very important,” Dr Daw Sandar, director of the department, said on Saturday at an advocacy meeting to strengthen promotion of health knowledge in schools. The program will focus on nine areas: health education, school environmental sanitation, school-based disease control, nutrition and food safety, medical examination, including primary oral care and dental examinations, community outreach, counselling and social support, training and research, and sports and physical activity.

ICT

Mandalay project with telco under review, says chief minister The Myanmar Times 26th Jun 2019
A committee comprising Mandalay City Development Council, police, and NGO representatives, chaired by Regional Minister of Electricity and Construction U Zarni Aung, is overseeing the project, which involves the use of technology to improve public safety in Mandalay.  “We are working to eradicate crime, however, some parties are criticising our cooperation with Huawei at a time of intense trade tensions between China and the US. We will review the criticism, as alternative technologies could be used for the project and no formal agreement has been signed for the project,” said U Zaw Myint Maung. 

Tender to be called to provide internet service in Mandalay’s gems market The Myanmar Times 8th Jul 2019
Tenders will be invited for telecommunications companies to provide internet service to the gems traders at the Mahar Aung Myay Gems Dealers’ Market in Mandalay, said Mandalay City Development Committee member U Kyaw Zaw Aung. The plan comes after a Chinese man was fined earlier this month for providing internet service unofficially at the market.

Myanmar to Change Text Encoding Standards This October Myanmar Business Today 2nd Jul 2019
The government of Myanmar has decided to switch its text encoding to unicode from Zawgyi. This is part of its transition to e-government, since Zawkyi encoding does not comply with the international text encoding system. The government has also ordered all of the telecom operators in the country to change their Zawgyi-encoded text messages over to unicode. Many companies hesitate to do this because most of their subscribers use Zawgyi-encoded fonts.

MPT Brings Its Digital Education Services to Myanmar People Myanmar Business Today 2nd Jul 2019
MPT is featuring a range of innovative VAS services in collaboration with local and international partners that enrich customers’lives, with news, entertainment, music, health, sports, horoscope and bundle service offerings that are relevant to them, at attractive rates. MPT launched its VAS, Digital Education Services for its customers through country’s fastest and largest network coverage. These services provide to youth for enrich the mobile life experience through Education platform by Shwe Nar Sin Audio Book, Smart Kids Portal Service, M-Learning Portal Service and Tat Lan Online Education Service and customers can enjoy wider range of digital learning platform.

US calls for end to Myanmar internet shutdown Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 1st Jul 2019
The United States on Saturday called for an end to a mobile internet shutdown in two strife-torn states in Myanmar, saying the cut-off undermines transparency amid clashes between the military and Arakan Army (AA). Myanmar's government last week took the unprecedented step of ordering mobile phone operators to shut down all internet data across at least eight townships in Rakhine state and one in neighbouring Chin state.

Myanmar's internet blackout violates rights but could be the first of many ASEAN Today 28th Jun 2019
In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, local residents have relied on mobile internet and social media to share news of the ongoing violent conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA). Activists and residents in the north of the region send videos and photos of military operations and the impacts of the conflict to journalists and contacts across the country and abroad.

Govt Faces Backlash for N. Rakhine Internet Blackout The Irrawaddy 25th Jun 2019
News about armed clashes between the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army (AA), often disseminated through social media platforms like Facebook, has stalled since the Myanmar government cut internet access across northern Rakhine State and neighboring Chin State’s Paletwa on Friday. The government’s indiscriminate network blockade muzzles information sources vital for giving updates on armed violence and rights abuses against civilians in war-torn northern Rakhine’s Mrauk-U, Minbya, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Myebon townships and neighboring Chin’s Paletwa.

AA accuses Tatmadaw of trying to hide information The Myanmar Times 25th Jun 2019
Starting on Friday night, the Ministry of Transport and Communication ordered the suspension of mobile internet service in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minbya and Myebon in Rakhine, and Paletwa in Chin, the permanent secretary of the ministry U Soe Thein said. He said that the ministry was shutting down the internet under a directive from the government.

Total Number of Defamation Cases Under Telecommunications Law Hits 200 The Irrawaddy 24th Jun 2019
The total number of cases filed under the controversial Telecommunications Law reached 200 this month, according to Athan, a freedom of expression advocacy group. Of these, 27 were filed against perceived critics by officials and 16 cases were filed by the military. The group said in a report published on Sunday that a total of 200 lawsuits were filed against 246 individuals under the law between late 2013 and June 20, mostly for “online defamation”.

Infrastructure

Five-year judicial strategic plan being implemented for speedy judicial reform Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Jul 2019
A five-year judicial strategic plan (2018-2022) is being implemented for speedy reform of Myanmar's judicial sector, according to a work coordination meeting on the implementation of Case Management Program-CMP with regional-level judicial departments and organizations. Based on the results of CMP implemented at Hlaingthaya Township Court in Yangon Region in 2015, East District Court also implemented it on August 1, 2018. Again, the CMP is being implemented at township courts in East District, West District Court and township courts in West District beginning from July 1, said Yangon Region law officer Kyaw Swar Nyein. 

Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw courts implement case management plan The Myanmar Times 3rd Jul 2019
Fifteen courts in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw are implementing a case management plan to try to restore the public’s faith in the judicial system. Part of the Union Supreme Court’s Judicial Strategic Plan for 2018-22, the three-part programme will carry out five action plans. A pilot project will be carried out in six townships in Mandalay and seven townships in Nay Pyi Taw’s Dekkhinathiri district. The President Office has instructed relevant agencies to cooperate with the project, said Mandalay Region High Court Chief Justice U Soe Thein.

House to discuss charter change, budget The Myanmar Times 2nd Jul 2019
“A constitutional amendment is important, not a thing to test,” said MP U Aung Kyi Nyunt. One of the first MPs to propose amending the charter, U Aung Kyi Nyunt is the National League for Democracy (NLD) MP in the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) for Magwe Region’s constituency 4. The hluttaw’s 13th regular session, which begins on July 15, is expected to continue the work on amending the 2008 Constitution that began in the 11th regular session. There are two approaches to amending the charter – one is to submit them to a 45-member joint committee comprised mostly of NLD members, and the other is led by the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The President Intervenes to Save Yangon from Its Govt The Irrawaddy 28th Jun 2019
The Yangon regional government has a tendency to annoy the Union government with its unrealistic plans and its disinclination to follow official procedures. The latest embarrassment to Naypyitaw came two weeks ago in the form of the regional government’s budget proposal for fiscal 2019-20. The Yangon administration requested 16 billion kyats (about US$10.5 million) to construct a seven-story police headquarters with a helipad and a regional courthouse with two basements, and to purchase a 25-meter-long ferry to make trips to a remote island in the Andaman Sea.

Some State Parliaments Approve Creation of Immigration Ministries The Irrawaddy 25th Jun 2019
At least four state and regional governments have so far approved Union President U Win Myint’s proposal that a ministry of immigration and human resources be established by each government at the state and regional level across the country. His proposal was sent to the speakers of the state and regional parliaments last week. The Mandalay Region parliament was the first to approve the establishment of the new ministry last Friday. It was followed by the legislatures in Yangon Region, Karen State and Sagaing Region. Some parliaments are currently taking short recesses.

Yangon to reallocate K16 billion for public development The Myanmar Times 24th Jun 2019
“We will not spend the K16 billion on building a court complex, a regional police headquarters, and buying a ship as originally planned,” regional Planning and Finance Minister Myint Thaung told the parliament. The regional government reallocated the funds after facing strong criticism from members of parliament last week. U Myint Thaung said that the money will instead be used for road development and electricity supply projects under capital expenditures for fiscal 2019-2020.  The Yangon government originally planned to build a criminal court complex in Insein township that would have cost over K15 billion. For the project, Yangon had appropriated K6 billion in the 2019-2020 budget year.

Yangon builds eight wharfs within three-year time Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 20th Jun 2019
Authorities built eight new wharfs in Yangon within three-year time and the cargo handling process is being carried out with 41 wharfs, according to Myanma Port Authority (MPA). Myanmar coast has 1,385 miles in length and nine ports are built along the coastal area. Yangon port is a major port and handling more than 90 per cent of international maritime trade.

Centre promises to operate buses between Mizoram & Myanmar EastMojo 20th Jun 2019
The Centre has promised to take measures for operation of buses between Mizoram and Myanmar, state transport minister TJ Lalnuntluanga informed the Assembly on Wednesday. Replying to a query from V L Zaithanzama of opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), Lalnuntluanga said the state government has proposed to introduce a bus service to connect Champhai town with Tahan in Myanmar.

Manufacturing

Vice president urges co-ops to get more involved in manufacturing The Myanmar Times 8th Jul 2019
Vice President U Henry Van Thio has urged cooperatives to participate more in manufacturing as they are a major driving force in the nation’s development. “I urge more involvement and participation by cooperative societies in agriculture, livestock and manufacturing,” he said at an event marking International Cooperative Day in Nay Pyi Taw on Saturday. Cooperatives started in Myanmar in 1905 with a savings and loan association in Myinmu township, Sagaing Region, that focused mainly on loans. But they branched out during the term of the previous government to include agriculture support. He urged the associations to support farmers with their services.

The impact of counterfeit drugs in south and south-east Asia European Pharmaceutical Review 3rd Jul 2019
Counterfeit and falsified drugs can have a serious impact upon human health. These drugs can also influence microbial resistance as well as have an effect on pharmaceutical companies’ profits and branding. Tackling counterfeit drugs is therefore an important issue which companies and governments alike are looking to combat. Although there is no international consensus of what makes a drug counterfeit, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines them as “drugs that are deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source.” They explain that counterfeits are a type of substandard drug, which are “genuine medicines which have not passed the standards and quality testing protocols set for them.”

Myanmar to encourage automobile assembly industry Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 25th Jun 2019
Myanmar is encouraging the development of automobile assembly industry, allowing auto manufacturers to import products that are essential to make vehicles in the country, Xinhua reported. According to the Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicle Imports and Related Business Monday, between April 2018 and January 2019, the committee has allowed eight auto manufacturers to import such products. Than Myint, Minister of Commerce and the committee's chairman stressed the need to give priority to investors who offer technological assistance through assembling and manufacturing their products in accordance with Myanmar Investment Commission's rules and regulations.

MPIE: A state enterprise success story Frontier Myanmar 24th Jun 2019
Pointing to a tablet-coating machine, a woman employee in protective clothing proudly notes that no other pharmaceutical maker in the country has such advanced equipment. “This is imported from Germany and is super expensive,” she says, referring to a Glatt SC Smart film coating machine. “Only we can use it,” she boasts. You’d probably expect the woman to be working in the private sector, perhaps at a factory built in the past few years with foreign investment. But the plant in Yangon Region’s Insein Township is run by state-owned Myanmar Pharmaceutical Industry Enterprise and opened in 2017.

Travel & Tourism

Groups to study how tourism sector handles Chinese visitors The Myanmar Times 9th Jul 2019
The number of Chinese tourists has increased since Myanmar started giving visa exemptions so teams have been formed to monitor their visits, according to an official from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. On June 21, the ministry formed groups comprising regional tourism officials in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan to monitor Chinese tourists. “Before, there might be only 200 tourists from western countries like Germany. Now big groups of Chinese tourists are coming in, so we are studying the best way to meet their needs,” U Myo Yi, a member of the monitoring group and chair of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, said.

Bangkok Airways expresses interest in opening routes to Bagan The Myanmar Times 8th Jul 2019
Bagan, an ancient site of Buddhist temples, monasteries and fortifications in Mandalay Region, already popular with tourists, could see more interest now that it has finally been endorsed by UNESCO. Other destinations the airline would like to open direct routes to include Heho in Shan State and Myeik in Tanintharyi Region as part of plans to expand operations to Myanmar’s tourist destinations. Bangkok Airways vice-president of sales Mr. Varong Israsena said in a media briefing that the airline would like to open up direct routes to Heho, Bagan and Myeik due to their tourism potential. He noted that a Bangkok to Myeik route could open the way for tourism to developin the islands off Myanmar’s southernmost coastline bordering Thailand.

Can Myanmar attract more tourists? The ASEAN Post 8th Jul 2019
Eased visa requirements for citizens from six countries are the latest in a string of visa relaxation policies that Myanmar has rolled out in a bid to boost tourism amidst fall-out from the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Visitors from Australia, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Switzerland can now apply for visas on arrival in Myanmar, where they will have to pay a US$50 visa fee at the country’s three international airports during a one-year trial period which will start on 1 October as stated by Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism last month.

Bagan added to UNESCO World Heritage List Frontier Myanmar 6th Jul 2019
Myanmar’s ancient city of Bagan has been approved for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, more than two decades after it was first nominated. The 21-member World Heritage Committee announced the decision on July 6 at a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, based on the recommendation of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Bagan becomes Myanmar’s second addition to the World Heritage List, after the three ancient Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Hanlin and Beikthano, which were listed in 2014. Myanmar first nominated Bagan for inclusion on the World Heritage List in 1995 but its efforts have been plagued by challenges and controversies, including over renovations that critics say have compromised the architectural integrity of the site, and inappropriate commercial development.

Myanmar’s tourism industry targets U.S. Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 5th Jul 2019
Myanmar’s tourism leaders are reaching out to the US travel market by cementing closer ties with the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), TTR Weekly reported. Myanmar Tourism Marketing the official channel for promoting tourism in overseas markets signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ASTA last week. Over 150 people from the tourism industry attended the event organised to show Myanmar is prioritising efforts on the US outbound travel market. According to the TTR Weekly report, ASTA opened its newest chapter in Myanmar in early February to create two-way communications and launch a variety of projects in Myanmar that will result in US travel advisors gaining more information and knowledge to sell the destination to their clients.

Chinese airlines moving to Myanmar The Myanmar Times 21st Jun 2019
On Tuesday, China Eastern Airlines launched a direct Shanghai-Yangon flight using Airbus 320 aircraft. The route offers flights from Yangon International Airport three times a week. It is China Eastern Airlines’ ninth route connecting China and Myanmar, making it the airline with the most flights between the two countries, and it expects to transport around 360,000 passengers on those flights in 2019, the airline said. China began wooing Myanmar travellers after the country relaxed visa requirements for Japanese, South Korean and Chinese tourists last September. Since then, China has increased the number of flights to Myanmar, and tourism between the two countries has expanded.

Tourism Ministry remains positive as visa restrictions eased Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Jul 2019
With the easing of some visa restrictions to attract more Western tourists to take effect on October 2019, Myanmar expects to receive more visitors this year, a senior official said. Aung Aye Han, deputy director general at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said the authorities see a bright outlook for Myanmar's tourism industry thanks to the efforts of key stakeholders. We witnessed a 24 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the first half of this year. So we hope to receive more in the second half," he said. As of May, Myanmar received 1.84 million visitors, up 24 per cent from the same period of last year. More than 3.55 million visited the nation last year.

Concerns may emerge when Bagan hotels, businesses are forced to move The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
The government and the public have to cooperate to conserve the archaeological site, including removing all hotels to a dedicated hotel zone by 2028, failing which its newfound status will be revoked, said U Arkar Kyaw, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture. According to UNESCO rules, the distance between a pagoda and building must be 120 feet and the public cannot dig deeper than six feet underground. “In issuing those rules, UNESCO is looking at how to preserve Bagan and to ensure it does not deteriorate further from its current condition,” U Arkar Kyaw said. Removing the hotels though, could prove to be easier said than done. There are over 300 hotels in Bagan but most of them are small family businesses with only 30 to 50 rooms, according to data from Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. 

Region’s tourism ministers vow to boost cooperation Khmer Times 19th Jun 2019
The tourism ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam last week agreed to boost cooperation, particularly in religious and food tourism. The officials met at the Fourth ACMECS Meeting of Tourism Ministers and the Fifth CLMV Meeting of Tourism Ministers, both held in Chiang Mai province, Thailand. Thong Khon, the Cambodian Tourism Minister, said cooperation must focus on religious and food tourism. At last week’s gatherings, the tourism ministers agreed to create action plans on tourism cooperation covering the years 2019-2023 which will focus on connections among routes and corridors, as well as marketing activities and sustainable tourism.